Monday, June 29, 2020

May and June Updates: The Series I Can't Seem to Quit

Pandemic time is so weird. It feels like I've been sheltering at home for years, but at the same time, I somehow completely missed that it's been two months since I last updated by writing blog.

The kinda bummer about not updating last month is that I actually did some work I wanted to talk about! But, it wasn't a ton of work, so it's fine just mentioning it in this update.

So, in my last post, I determined I no longer wanted to be a career writer. I do want to publish a book or several sometime in my life, and that may be traditional but is more likely to be self-publishing. That hasn't changed. In fact, if anything, I feel even more strongly about that. Both of those things, actually. That I definitely don't want to rely on writing to make a living, for sure. But more and more, I am becoming increasingly more certain that I do not want to deal with traditional publishing at all. It's a mess out there, and I am not young or hip or savvy enough to keep up with it all. Nor do I have the energy to try. Which, I admit, isn't a great attitude. But, it is what it is. That is how I feel about my writing.

I also mentioned last entry that I might look into the MystWatch books, if I had the energy and was so inclined. And it turns out that I was, in fact, inclined! It took me a couple of weeks, but I went through book 1 and did some cleanup on things that have always bothered me, incorporated some information about crossbows now that I've actually fired one, and tweaked a few scenes that didn't flow as well as others. I have done some really amazing work on that book. There are so many scenes where I'm just like, yeah, I nailed it. That needs no additional tweaking. I would love to get every single scene that perfect, but I recognize that's probably too much to expect. Anyway. It was a fun little romp into a world and a story I love so, so much.

And then I stepped into book 2, thinking that, like book 1, it would probably be a fun little romp where I'd have to fix a few things and edit on a higher level.

Boy was I wrong. By the end of the third chapter, I was seriously thinking that I might have to completely rewrite this book. Fortunately, I pushed on, and now, about 10 chapters in, I think I have found a fairly easy solution to fix a lot of my problems with the book. Trouble is, I stalled out on chapter 10 weeks ago. I just couldn't face the book and all the work it needed. I thought this was a fairly polished book! And while it did go through many developmental passes, it really never went through the other phases of edits. Why would it? It's the second book in a trilogy that didn't get picked up.

I was so close to just saying fuck it. Why bother editing this? I don't really owe it to anyone. I've considered it finished for awhile. Why dig into it, now?

But that was lazy writer brain talking. Since I do plan on self-publishing these books someday, I know I need to do this work. Even if I don't plan to publish them for another few years, any work I do on this book now is less work I will have to do down the line. If I can get a solid developmental edit done now, that will be one less editing step I have to pay for. And the next time I read it, it will be a more fun copy edit or even proofread edit, like book 1 was this time around.

Anyway. I haven't done any writing work for nearly two weeks. Not until this morning, when I started kicking around ideas on how to fix the plot problems book 2 has. And now, while I won't say I'm super excited to dive back into it, at least I have a clearer idea on what I need to do to fix it. I just have to decide if I want to start back at the beginning and fix things moving forward, or keep plugging away at my readthrough. I think probably the latter. That way, if I run into more problems, I can brainstorm fixes for those, then I can work to implement all of those things in one big editing pass.

So, yeah. I got a chunk of editing and rewriting done over the past two months. I'm hoping to at least finish my readthrough of book 2 in July. I'm not sure I'll start implementing edits next month unless I get a big burst of creative energy. It could happen, I suppose.

I've also been thinking a lot about my newest novel. All 3k words of it. And also Once We Were Witches. I've been in a very witchy mood these days. So maybe I'll get some actual writing done one of these days. I'd also love to finish writing Chain Letter Choice at some point. That book is over halfway finished, and although it will probably need some structural edits, it seems dumb to waste that much of a written book.

Says the writer who has cut loose all of the novels I've written prior to the last couple of years. Yeah. I decided going back to work on Online Dating for Demons or Dante novels or even the next Druid Wars book was not work I was excited to do, and, in fact was causing me more anxiety than anything. I think nowadays I'd like to look forward rather than back.

Except for MystWatch, for some reason. I'm always drawn back to that series, no matter how long ago I started writing it (nine years ago this summer, if you're curious...which is, interestingly enough, about the same age as this blog). It's the series I can't seem to quit. I don't know what it is about it that I love so much. I still get that excited writer feeling when I read back over it, or when I think about the characters or the things that happen. I often think about what the characters would be doing now (well, not now now, since I have no idea how they'd handle a pandemic...they don't seem like they'd be great at social distancing). I have at least two spinoff series ideas. Even after all this time, I'm still passionate about it. Maybe it's because it's my first finished novel and my first finished trilogy. But I can't help but think there may be more to it than that. Maybe there truly is something magical about it.

And hey, if I'm only writing for myself, I am free to explore that magic anytime it comes calling. I have no obligations to anyone to write other things or give up on this story that still gives me goosebumps sometimes. Sometimes I do fear that I'm stuck. That maybe I should move on. But I can't think of a reason why I should. I've written other things. I still haven't published this, so I can still keep making it better. And I do. Every pass, I add something that makes it better. As long as I still enjoy that process, I don't feel like I should have to quit.

Ehem. Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent. I've been having a lot of worries lately, almost bordering on guilt, that I keep working on this trilogy. I know that's dumb. It's my world and my writing hobby.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

April Update: Redefining my Reasons for Writing

My last update was rather fatalistic. The sad part is, I believed it, then. And while the pandemic is still a constant drain on my energy and creativity, I've actually found a little time and space to put some words down.

I spent most of the month thinking about a FF12 fanfic, and about halfway through the month, I finally decided to jot some of those ideas down. And I ended up with nearly 4k words by the end of the month on this silly little thing. I actually decided only a couple of days ago that I was going to count that toward my monthly writing goals. Was it a coherent story? No. It wasn't even written as a story, more as brainstorming notes. But I'm counting it. I spent time thinking about a narrative, and I wrote down the details of that narrative. That, right now, counts.

And hey, yesterday, I actually wrote nearly 400 words on the YA novel I started last month. See? That is the main reason I counted those fanfic words. Because those words led to other words. My own words. Narrative words. On my own story.

I still really love the concept of that novel. I was starting to worry that first chapter was going to be boring, but it is a great balance of tension and release. And I got to the end of the chapter yesterday. It actually has a really good chapter arc. I've never intentionally built a chapter the way I build a story, but in a way, I think I've always done that. I made an intentional choice to end that chapter where I did because it hit a bit of a natural "climax," and then a resolution for the chapter, but introducing new conflict.

I'm good at writing. As much as I love physical arts like painting, pottery, even music, I am mediocre at best at those things. But writing? I have some natural talent, and I have cultivated those skills for over a decade.

I will always be a writer. I will always come back to writing. I love it. Even when I can't do it, or don't want to do it, or don't feel like I am any good, I am still a writer. I keep coming back to this fact. I take breaks. Some longer than others. Sometimes it's hard to go back to it. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes my returns are fleeting. Sometimes, like last time, I had a couple solid years where I wrote and edited a ton. Like everything in life, there are cycles.

All that being said, being a writer and making a living writing are very different things. I have done a ton of ruminating on this. I've been struggling to separate those two things so that I can actually enjoy writing again. I think, deep down, I still hadn't let go of the idea that I was going to make a living as a writer someday. It was still a someday dream. And that was hurting my ability to write just to write. I could only think about how to monetize what I was writing. I hate that. I don't want that, anymore.

I don't want that anymore.

I don't want to make a living as a writer. I do want to write. I want to write books, and short stories, and blog posts, and hey, maybe even get some of those things published. It'd be cool if I could get some of my books out there for people to read. I don't even care that much about the money, at this point. The pressure of writing, writing, writing to make sure I get something out every X months in order to keep whatever algorithm going to make the most possible money. I've been tracking my progress for around five years, now. I can't keep up that pace. It leads to burnout. So, self-publishing as a career is out. And...well, I don't think I write commercially or well enough to break into the traditional publishing industry. Even then, there's probably a certain amount of pressure to write, write, write to make money, money, money, for my publisher, for my editor, for my agent. Aside from all that, the query process is awful. That did more damage to my creativity than...well, not this pandemic. It did a lot of damage, though. I still haven't gotten back into it. Even without the pandemic, I would probably still only be dipping my toe in creative waters.

It used to be that I desperately wanted to get out of my current job, and the idea of writing full time seemed like a dream job. Now, as much as some days my job is mind-numbing, uninspiring, and frustrating, I value it quite a bit. I make a decent salary. I'm nearly halfway to retirement. It's enabling me to save up enough money to buy my dream house, to be able to put away savings for later in life, and gives me plenty of time to take off work, be sick, work from home, even do a bit of writing/blogging/research on work time, when we're slow. And I don't have to worry about being self-directed. And I don't have to take work home with me.

True, I hate that 40 hours a week are not my own, but if I have to work, and I can't be a full-time writer, I have a damn good job. Will it last me the next 16 years until I can retire? Maybe not. And I might have to reassess at some point, if this job comes to an end. Do I stay at KU? Do I stay an editor? But I don't have to answer those questions right now.

Anyway. That was a bit of a tangent, but it does have some relevance, here. This blog was originally designed as a way to track my progress to becoming a published author. I think the unwritten implication there is that once I was a published author, I'd slowly transition this blog into my journey as published author to full-time author.

That's no longer the case. This is the last year of my 30s. I've made a lot of progress as a writer. And it's something that, even after this long, I still love. Most parts of it, anyway. Some days, anyway. Ehem. It's a thing I still do, feelings about it aside. But my goals have changed.

Yes, I still want to publish a book. But I think the second, unspoken part of that goal can be laid to rest.

I want to be a published author, not a full-time writer.

And hey, just because I'm almost 40 doesn't mean I have to stop striving for that. And even when I accomplish that, I can still blog about my writing progress. My writing goals.

So. This month, I managed to write nearly 5,000 words. Next month, I'd like to do about the same. Even if it's fanfic. And maybe take a look at the MystWatch books, if I find I have the energy and inclination.

Unless something untoward happens, I will see you next month for another update. Maybe an update that's not quite as philosophical and rambling. But maybe it will be. I am a writer, after all.

Monday, March 30, 2020

March Update: Pandemic

Well...all of my plans have been hijacked by a global pandemic.

I don't have much to say about that, here. But, I am starting to feel like I'm just not meant to be a writer anymore. I'm sad and frustrated and depressed that I'd finally started getting back into the groove of things--setting reasonable goals, going out to write with friends, spending some of my free time adding words to stories--when COVID-19 took over the world. Now, I'm lucky if I manage to do more than play videogames in the evenings after a long, long day of trying to keep focused working remotely at home.

I have no energy or head space for fictional things. I can't even make myself care about worlds I love. It's like I've stepped back to that no-man's land of writers block, where just the thought of writing anything made me more tired than I thought possible.

I did try to start a pandemic daily log. I managed that for a few days, but now I mostly just use it to vent when I'm frustrated about stuff. It's a secret place for bitching rather than an interesting or entertaining account of what is going on, so I don't really feel like it should count toward my writing goals. So, I wrote 1400 words this month, before the pandemic hit hard.

And now my goals are more basic and have nothing to do with writing. Try to get outside at least once a day. Try to exercise. Don't binge eat. Don't binge drink. Don't check the stock market if I'm not emotionally prepared. Try to keep the house at least sort of tidy because it helps my mood. Make time for art when I'm up for it, at least a couple of times a week. Try to remember social distancing means physical distance, not complete social isolation.

There may come a time when I'm ready to write, again, but right now, I'm back to thinking that maybe the writing life isn't for me. As much as I wish I could make a living with my stories, in a way, right now, I'm glad I don't. Because I don't think I could sit here all day and write, even if it was for a paycheck. And I wouldn't have insurance.

Anyway. That's where I'm at with writing. I'm not, right now. I don't see that changing for awhile. Definitely not until after the pandemic peaks and begins to ebb again. Maybe not even then. So many things are going to change between now and then. Me included. I really may be done writing. For real this time.

So I may not update this blog again. Definitely not next month, unless I get hit with a powerful creativity. Possibly not again for several months. Maybe not at all. I'm not hugely optimistic, at any rate. With what's happening in the world, it's hard to be optimistic about much of anything.